Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Temple-builders close shop after 1,400 years

After 1,400 years, the world's oldest continuously operating family business is closing up shop.

Temple-building just isn't what it used to be.

Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, in operation under the founders' descendants since 578 A.D., succumbed to excess debt and an unfavorable business climate in 2006, Business Week reported.

Company officials say they lasted as long as they did by adopting a policy of being both conservative and flexible. Stay in the same core business — in their case, building Japanese Buddhist temples — but be flexible enough to see a good opportunity when it comes along. During World War II, for example, they switched to coffin manufacturing for a while.

Bad real estate investments during the 1980s which cut jacked up their debt while the value of their assets fell, coupled with the changing Japanese culture — nobody needs a new Buddhist temple these days — is what finally brought an end to the 1,428 year old family-run operation.

In January, the company's assets were acquired by Takamatsu, a large Japanese construction company, and it was absorbed into a subsidiary.

Let all the other temple-building organizations take due notice, and govern themselves accordingly.

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